“The language we use matters, especially at the UN, where our words represent the world.” As we mark International Women’s Day in the midst of a political landscape that may change the multilateral system for years to come, it is worth reflecting on how far the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda has progressed and where the gaps remain. After more than two decades of work in the UN Security Council, the focus has shifted from making progress at the norm-setting level to translating these norms into changes in the lives of women in conflict and post-conflict contexts. This requires a much more robust understanding of the scope of use and application of WPS language negotiated in Security Council resolutions on country-specific situations. Several practical and political challenges stand in the way of improving the relevance and usefulness of Council language on WPS. The aim of this article is to contribute to a dialogue on how to overcome such challenges.
This article builds on the 3 February 2022 event “From Paper to Practice: How UN Security Council Language on Women, Peace, and Security is Implemented in Conflict-affected Contexts,” hosted by The Permanent Missions of Kenya, Norway, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates, United Nations University Centre for Policy Research, UN Women, and the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). This event drew on diverse perspectives, including UN staff and civil society organizations working in Colombia, the Central African Republic, and Libya.